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The Return of the Courtesan

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As the beautiful and formidable Tullia Buffo, once the most desired courtesan of the age, returns home to Venice, she faces ruin. It’s 1576 and most have fled the plague ravaged city. But now Tullia must fight for her life and protect her secrets. The gondolier Sebastiano, a keeper of secrets, has plied his trade on the canals of Venice his whole life, soaking up gossip and As the beautiful and formidable Tullia Buffo, once the most desired courtesan of the age, returns home to Venice, she faces ruin. It’s 1576 and most have fled the plague ravaged city. But now Tullia must fight for her life and protect her secrets. The gondolier Sebastiano, a keeper of secrets, has plied his trade on the canals of Venice his whole life, soaking up gossip and scandal. As a boy, he saved his family from destitution after the terrible wrong the painter Titian’s son did to his father. Now, with Titian dead and his son in Venice to claim his inheritance, the time has finally come for Sebastiano’s revenge. In the present day, events from centuries earlier suddenly engulf the lives of ordinary people as far distant as London and New York as they are touched by the enduring legacy of Tullia, a lost Titian masterpiece and the secrets of old Venice…


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As the beautiful and formidable Tullia Buffo, once the most desired courtesan of the age, returns home to Venice, she faces ruin. It’s 1576 and most have fled the plague ravaged city. But now Tullia must fight for her life and protect her secrets. The gondolier Sebastiano, a keeper of secrets, has plied his trade on the canals of Venice his whole life, soaking up gossip and As the beautiful and formidable Tullia Buffo, once the most desired courtesan of the age, returns home to Venice, she faces ruin. It’s 1576 and most have fled the plague ravaged city. But now Tullia must fight for her life and protect her secrets. The gondolier Sebastiano, a keeper of secrets, has plied his trade on the canals of Venice his whole life, soaking up gossip and scandal. As a boy, he saved his family from destitution after the terrible wrong the painter Titian’s son did to his father. Now, with Titian dead and his son in Venice to claim his inheritance, the time has finally come for Sebastiano’s revenge. In the present day, events from centuries earlier suddenly engulf the lives of ordinary people as far distant as London and New York as they are touched by the enduring legacy of Tullia, a lost Titian masterpiece and the secrets of old Venice…

30 review for The Return of the Courtesan

  1. 5 out of 5

    Whispering Stories

    Titian’s Boatman, blends the passage of time between the 16th and the 21st centuries, via two of the masterpieces of renaissance painter, Titian. We start our journey in 1576, Venice, a period in history, when the city was in turmoil. Not bad enough that corruption and violence was rife, the plague was also reaping havoc, with the deaths of over 50,000 residents between 1576 and 1577. Opening with one of the many characters that adorn this book, Sebastiano, ‘The Boatman’, has been paid a hefty sum Titian’s Boatman, blends the passage of time between the 16th and the 21st centuries, via two of the masterpieces of renaissance painter, Titian. We start our journey in 1576, Venice, a period in history, when the city was in turmoil. Not bad enough that corruption and violence was rife, the plague was also reaping havoc, with the deaths of over 50,000 residents between 1576 and 1577. Opening with one of the many characters that adorn this book, Sebastiano, ‘The Boatman’, has been paid a hefty sum to take a hooded man into the city that most people are fleeing. On vacating his gondolier, Sebastiano, notices that the hooded man is Pomponio, the son of the newly deceased Titian. A man Sebastiano despises. Pomponio is there for one reason only, to claim his stake on his fathers’ paintings. But when he arrives, he’s too late. Thieve’s have already beaten him to them. New York, 2011, housemaid Aurora, is the cleaner for the affluent Pereira family. In the apartment hangs one of Titian’s masterpieces, Saint Sebastian, a painting that’s been missing since it was stolen from a gallery, many years ago. London, 2011, Thespian Terry is in turmoil after his boyfriend Colin left him, and the heartache that he is feeling as his mother hadn’t long since passed. Needing to keep himself busy, he headed to his favourite place, The National Gallery. Standing in front of the painting ‘The Man in the Blue Sleeve’, also by Titian, Terry hears the painting speak to him, telling him ‘There are worse things than loneliness’, as well as ‘you are going to die soon’. Crossing back and forth in time, we are introduced to many characters, from 16th century courtesan, Tullia Buffo, who returns to her home to find that thieves have ransacked and stolen everything, and with no money to replace them uses her body as payment. Director Ludovico, who takes Terry under his wing, and teaches him what love is. Plus detective Alberto, who needs the help of the woman he loves, Aurora, to help him put away Mr. Pereira who he believes is a drug dealer. The book is a literary masterpiece as it interweaves facts with fiction. The originality of the story is what captured me from the start. The unification of past and present, brought together by one man’s work, is extraordinary. This compelling, unputdownable book will absorb you into it’s plot. It will drive to the heart of you, the various emotions that run through it, from anger to grief, love to loss, the whole spectrum is beautifully presented. It is vividly descriptive, and intelligently written. This is a book that you will not just read from cover to cover, but a book that you will take into your heart, and hold dear, long after you have read that final word. It is a book that will have you wanting to delve deeper into the life of Titian, needing to discover who exactly he was, and the paintings that he drew. Reviewed by Stacey on www.whisperingstories.com

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer S. Alderson

    Reading Titian’s Boatman by Victoria Blake is akin to embarking on a highly enjoyable journey through gorgeous settings and two distinct periods of time. This novel is a series of seemingly unrelated stories set in London, Venice and New York City, which slowly intertwine then merge towards the end. It was fascinating to be privy to the inner thoughts of a master painter, famous courtesan, Venetian boatman, English stage actor, Italian film director, New York City police man, Italian nun, Manhat Reading Titian’s Boatman by Victoria Blake is akin to embarking on a highly enjoyable journey through gorgeous settings and two distinct periods of time. This novel is a series of seemingly unrelated stories set in London, Venice and New York City, which slowly intertwine then merge towards the end. It was fascinating to be privy to the inner thoughts of a master painter, famous courtesan, Venetian boatman, English stage actor, Italian film director, New York City police man, Italian nun, Manhattan cleaning lady, Italian poet and aging movie star. Revenge drives one character, the desire to reach a higher social standing another, fame and perhaps wealth motivates a third, and memories of better times keep a forth going. All of their stories are connected via a single painting, Titian’s Man With the Blue Sleeve. The cast of characters is quite large yet two remain central: Terry, an important British stage actor who is grieving the loss of his mother and breakup with his lover in the year 2011, and Sebastiano da Canal, a gondolier who worked for Titian’s friends and a courtesan in sixteenth century Venice. Each chapter provides a snippet of information which reveals another insight into the character’s lives, place and time. The novel reminded me of a jigsaw puzzle that has to be reassembled before one can truly understand it. I was quite impressed by how the author tailored her writing style to the era portrayed and characters described. In all instances, her prose is beautiful and evocative. The short chapters and large cast keep the reader alert and it is a delight to discover what twist or turn the author introduces next. Based on the book’s description, cover design and the fact that the author’s father is a well-respected historian, I was expecting a story seeped in historical detail with long, flowery descriptions of setting and place. This novel isn’t like that; instead it is a tight series of family histories connected together by bloodlines, servitude and the paintings of Titian. Don’t get me wrong, the author’s descriptions are lavish and even sumptuous, yet every detail matters. She provides enough information about the time and place to engage and inform, then stops. Within a span of merely 369 pages, the author covers several important and complex historical events: the Inquisition, medieval punishments, Jews’ banishment to the Ghettos, pagan rituals versus organized religion, courtesans and patrons, sons and priesthood, dowries and nunneries, households and creditors. Her explanations are compact and efficient; short, quick scenes that effectively sketch the background of current events and social attitudes held without turning the book into a university lecture. She has wisely chosen characters whose actions help explain the events leading up to the decisions and attitudes held. Though several of them are based on real people and many of the events described did happen, history provides the outline and the author’s imagination fills in the rest. The events happening in both eras mirror each other, informing and supporting each other through a parallel plot structure that works incredibly well. All of the threads draw to a satisfying close, perhaps too happy, but fitting for such a novel. I can imagine on a second or even third read, I would pick up even more connections between time, place and characters. Art and art history are important to this novel, and the reader learns about Titian’s painting practices, use of models and the role of his patrons. The art historian in me loved the art history jokes sprinkled throughout the novel, in particular those concerning the popularity of certain painters and the role of museums educators. “He sighed and lingered just long enough to see what painter they would bring up. His worst fears were confirmed – Van Gogh and his wretched sunflowers. How inevitable!” (page 137) Passages such as these cracked me up, and are an excellent example of the author’s subtle humor and gift for timing. I really enjoyed visiting both historic and contemporary Venice with this author. Her evocative descriptions of place were a pleasure to read and often worked into the text in a most unique way. “He was as transparent as the lagoon” (page 207) is one of many beautifully descriptive examples. Present day Venice is also described as I recall it. The author shows you the glorious cathedrals, squares and cafes of the city center and take you on a trip around the city, highlighting both the tourist hotspots and local favorites. The city is described by someone who has clearly spent time wandering along the canals and bridges crisscrossing the main islands and riding the vaporettos (water buses) to the outlying areas. Her descriptions don’t just focus on the architecture and famous churches. She provides a realistic look at the use of planks when the city center floods, compares the pigeon problematic at St. Mark’s in Venice to London’s Trafalgar Square, mentions pricy cafes on historic squares, overcrowded scenic routes along the Grand Canals and eerily empty side streets and squares a few blocks away. As far as the historical chapters are concerned, the era is as well described as the city of Venice. Readers see the Ghetto and squalor as well as the beauty wealth could provide during and after the plague in the 1570s. Central London, in particular Trafalgar square and the National Gallery come to life. You feel the rain and winds, crowded streets and irritations with the Tube. I love how she describes the Thames River running through the city: “In a city this crowded, why on earth didn’t they use it as a source of transport? Then at least it would have some use; it would get back its pride and dignity. All it had was its ebb and flow, and of course the dubious pleasure of transporting tourists between the two Tates, but there was no dignity in that.” (page 128) Titian’s Boatman was a joy to read, as much for the fascinating characters and historical what ifs?, as the setting – both London and Venice. She describes the cities in a way that makes you feel as if you are there walking alongside her characters. I highly recommend this book to fans of art history, historical fiction, European travel, and pretty much anyone else who loves reading a great book. [I was provided an ARC copy of this novel by TripFiction in exchange for an honest review to be posted on their book blog. It was published on their site this morning.]

  3. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    The art of living... It is 1576, and Titian is living in plague-ridden Venice – an old man, refusing to flee from the city he loves. As he waits for death to find him, he thinks back to his young days, when his career was just beginning, recalling the time when he painted the portrait that became known as The Man with the Blue Sleeve. By the time his one surviving son, Pomponio, reaches Venice, Titian is dead; and, in the disorder of the time, his studio has been ransacked and many of his paintin The art of living... It is 1576, and Titian is living in plague-ridden Venice – an old man, refusing to flee from the city he loves. As he waits for death to find him, he thinks back to his young days, when his career was just beginning, recalling the time when he painted the portrait that became known as The Man with the Blue Sleeve. By the time his one surviving son, Pomponio, reaches Venice, Titian is dead; and, in the disorder of the time, his studio has been ransacked and many of his paintings stolen. As the plague eventually recedes from the city, we meet Tullia, one of the city's courtesans, returning to find that she too has had her home looted. With her wealth gone, she realises she will have to start again, sending out signals to the rich men of Venice that she is available for their pleasure – at a price. In this city where the main mode of travel is by water, Sebastiano the boatman is an observer of the great people of the city, knowing their weaknesses and sometimes their secrets, their lives often touching on his. In London in 2011, actor Terry Jardine is currently in rehearsal of A Winter's Tale. Terry recently lost his beloved mother, and that, together with a break-up of a long-term relationship, has brought him to a kind of crisis in his life. When he breaks down during rehearsals, his director, Ludovico, comforts him, and so begins a love story between these two men. Meantime in New York, we meet Aurora, a Cuban-born maid working for Mr and Mrs Pereira, a couple who are being surreptitiously investigated by the police. These four characters – Terry, Aurora, Sebastiano and Tullia – are all loosely linked through Titian and his art. The book jumps back and forwards between them, which could easily have made it feel disjointed. But the quality of the writing, together with some excellent characterisation, makes each section compelling, so that, rather than feeling irritated by the jumps, I found I was looking forward in each case to finding out a little more of the story of whichever character came to the fore. There is no over-arching plot as such, but the links to Titian's paintings give the book a structure that stops it from feeling too fragmentary. Blake has clearly done her research for the Venetian strands, and creates a marvellously authentic-feeling picture of the 16th century society of the city. As we learn more about Sebastiano, we see how his family was severely affected when his father became briefly caught up in the schemes of Titian's son, Pomponio, and how different the rules of justice were for rich and poor. But in the Venice section, it's Tullia's story that stood out for me – the precarious life of the courtesan dependant entirely on youth and beauty, and the need to achieve wealth before these begin to fade. There is a recurring theme throughout the strands of children separated from their mothers, and in Tullia's case this is both fascinating and moving, as we learn of younger or less pretty daughters of the wealthy farmed off to convents to avoid the need for families to find dowries to enable them to marry. In the contemporary section, Aurora is fascinated by a Titian owned by her employers, of the death of Saint Sebastian. Blake writes with a lovely light touch, so its only gradually that we discover why this painting means so much to her, and how it is connected to her own childhood when her parents sent her to the US to escape from Castro's Cuba. Terry's connection to Titian comes when he is in the National Gallery admiring The Man with the Blue Sleeve, when it suddenly seems to him that the painting is talking to him, prophesying his death. The growing love between Terry and Ludovico is beautifully done, giving the book its emotional heart. We see the importance of the theatre to Terry – he can't imagine himself as anything other than an actor, and can't imagine life continuing if he were ever to become unable to act. Ludovico was also separated from his mother as a baby and never knew her identity, but now she wishes to meet him and he doesn't know how to feel about that. The two men give each other the emotional support each needs to get through these difficult moments in their lives. I've been deliberately vague about each strand, because the joy of the book is in the slow revelations through which the characters are gradually built-up, layer on layer, so that we see what has made them who they are. In the end, all the strands come together, but as with the whole book it's done gently – there's no big dramatic denouement or stunning twist, just a somewhat understated unfolding of the connections through Titian's art that link these people about whom we've come to care. I know Victoria Blake somewhat through our blogs, but as always I've tried not to let that colour my review. In truth, I loved this book. The slowish start when all the various strands are introduced meant that it took a little while to grab me, but the quality of the prose carried me until the gradual deepening of the characterisation caused me to become completely absorbed by the stories of these people. Of course, it's about art and the effect it can have in many different ways, but mostly it's about people, told with a depth of understanding and sympathy for human frailties, and the various kinds of love that give us the strength to withstand life's blows. Highly recommended. 4½ stars for me, so rounded up. NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Black & White Publishing. www.fictionfanblog.wordpress.com

  4. 4 out of 5

    Juliet Bookliterati

    I actually don't know where to start my review as this novel just blew me away.  It is beautifully written, and researched with a cast of characters that drew me into their lives.  There are many voices in this book; Aurora and Alberto in New York; Terry and his new love Ludovico in London; Sebastian and Tullia in Venice.  At first it may seen that their stories are unconnected, but like a great painting their stories are like layers of paint that are gradually built up that eventually combine t I actually don't know where to start my review as this novel just blew me away.  It is beautifully written, and researched with a cast of characters that drew me into their lives.  There are many voices in this book; Aurora and Alberto in New York; Terry and his new love Ludovico in London; Sebastian and Tullia in Venice.  At first it may seen that their stories are unconnected, but like a great painting their stories are like layers of paint that are gradually built up that eventually combine to make a masterpiece. Their different stories are told with great understanding and empathy, you feel invested in their lives, and care about where their future.  It is two of Titian's paintings that connect these characters, The Man with the Blue Sleeve that hangs in the National Gallery London, which I am very fortunate to have seen, and The Resurrection of Saint Sebastian.  Victoria Blake's writing brings these paintings to life, the detail of the quilted sleeve, its rich colour and the sumptuous cloth and Saint Sebastian's pain, the detail of his face, the expression are all brought to life.  The paintings also represent that art transcends time, there is four hundred and fifty years between the timelines but still Titians art is able to touch peoples lives no matter where or when you are. Titian painted a couple of works featuring Saint Sebastian, but for the book it is there version taken from a polyptych, I have included images of both of these paintings at the end of my review.   Another theme is families; in particular those effected by the death of a family member that marks their lives; Terry and his mother, Aurora and her husband, Sebastiano and his father, Tullia who has lost children and her mother. These characters are very much defined by what has happened, but turn to Titian's paintings as a solace, a place where they can turn in grief.  Most historical fiction based around Courtesan's in Venice tells of a city of fun, Carnivale, of Masks and parties, but the only masks in The Return of the Courtesan are the masks of the plague doctor.  Venice is now a dark place,  decimated by the plague, it is a shadow of its former self; thousands died and many of the upper patrician class left to try and escape.  What is left is a city of ransacked houses where anything of any value has been stolen, it is dangerous to walk the streets after dark due to thieves.  In contrast the Venice of 2011 is a tourist haven, full of people taking in the wonderful architecture and art the city has to offer, a city of love and dreams.   I found The Return of the Courtesan to be an erudite novel, as sumptuous as the paintings it describes.  It covers love, death, family, the power of art, human survival instincts, and also is part mystery.  It is written with knowledge, empathy and great detail to the plot and characters.  I can not praise this book highly enough, it is certainly one of the best novels I have read this year, which is quite an accolade as I have been privileged to read some wonderful books this year. I should add the note that this book was previously published under the title Titian's Boatman, a title I much prefer.  

  5. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    There is an epic vibrancy to Titian’s Boatman where the necessity of appreciating every morsel of life takes on new meaning as events unfold. The words wrap you in their splendour as they take you on a journey as relevant to the present as they were to the present. The beautifully layered narration from a 16th century Venetian gondolier who tells his story of the time of disease and corruption that is partially cloaked in resentment, and for good reason. The brutally honest Titian’s Boatma There is an epic vibrancy to Titian’s Boatman where the necessity of appreciating every morsel of life takes on new meaning as events unfold. The words wrap you in their splendour as they take you on a journey as relevant to the present as they were to the present. The beautifully layered narration from a 16th century Venetian gondolier who tells his story of the time of disease and corruption that is partially cloaked in resentment, and for good reason. The brutally honest Titian’s Boatman tells of the ills that befell his family, the sights he endured, and the orders he willingly complied with. How this man came to know the great painter Titian as a youth and grew into boatman like his father before him is utterly compelling. The unwavering respect he offers to his masters is as intricate as the paintings of his time. In 2011, a London gallery and an apartment in New York display these glorious, mesmerising works many centuries after the smell of turpentine and the raging tantrums have died away, like the muse who sat for them. Yet they remain as vivid and affecting as the day they were framed. A particular canvass depicting The Man with the Blue Sleeve becomes an iconic symbol in this tale that spans centuries. The undetermined identity of the sitter and the way a painting may speak to those who care to visit it. In one case the painting actually verbalises its opinion to a thespian named Terry, and offers him some peculiar words of wisdom! Each character is a captivating individual whose story is touched by a passion, hope, regret or desire that is present in all of them in varying degrees: The morose actor, his flamboyant director, the widowed housemaid from Cuba, our humble yet determined boatman, a successful and headstrong courtesan, and the artists whose work continues to enthral viewers who stand in awe before it. Titian’s Boatman incorporates divine passages and glides effortlessly through the eras. His story conjures the artistry and imagination of the magicians whose brush strokes are as fluid and alive as the sitter themselves, their enigmatic essence immortalised and open for admiration and speculation. As the delicate connection of time begins to show its hand, so does the clarity that accompanies new beginnings everywhere. A fascinating story, gracefully told. (I received a copy of this title from the publisher, with my thanks, and it is my pleasure to provide an unbiased review.)

  6. 5 out of 5

    Francesca Howard

    I teach History of Art lessons on the Renaissance and the Baroque and it is wonderful to be able to recommend novels to my students that recreate the atmosphere of those periods. And I could not recommend Titian's Boatman more highly. 16C Venice, a time of spectacular art combined with ravaging plague, comes to visceral life in the hands of Blake. You can smell the oil paints in Titian's studio and the choking atmosphere of a city struggling to survive. And on top of all this, there is the stunnin I teach History of Art lessons on the Renaissance and the Baroque and it is wonderful to be able to recommend novels to my students that recreate the atmosphere of those periods. And I could not recommend Titian's Boatman more highly. 16C Venice, a time of spectacular art combined with ravaging plague, comes to visceral life in the hands of Blake. You can smell the oil paints in Titian's studio and the choking atmosphere of a city struggling to survive. And on top of all this, there is the stunning cover! You will love this jewel of a book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Thebooktrail

    Visit the locations in the novel - Venice, London, New York Like the twists and turns of the canals in the city of Venice, this novel takes you on a remarkable journey of that city across two time zones, visits to London and New York before all coming together with a nice flamboyant artistic bow. It’s a sumptuous read and a truly fascinating one as the author has very cleverly merged fact and fiction into, what I can only describe as a very impressive performance. Now I can’t claim to know a grea Visit the locations in the novel - Venice, London, New York Like the twists and turns of the canals in the city of Venice, this novel takes you on a remarkable journey of that city across two time zones, visits to London and New York before all coming together with a nice flamboyant artistic bow. It’s a sumptuous read and a truly fascinating one as the author has very cleverly merged fact and fiction into, what I can only describe as a very impressive performance. Now I can’t claim to know a great deal about art or this time period but I was eased in with just the right amount of detail, the author’s flair and fluent writng filling in the rest. I became obsessed with that painting and googled it almost straight away. That led to a new understanding and as the story progressed I became more and more immersed in the city of the plague, the rats, the gondoliers and the rich opulent palaces. The city comes to life in 3D but it’s the stories in the side alleys which really fill you in on time and place – the problems of flooding, the pigeons which plague London and venice, the tooing and froying of the people across the water veins of both cities. I almost wanted to pick up a paintbrush such was the feeling of excitement of being so close to a master painter, those at court and the patrons who worked with them. Brilliantly crafted and as vivid as any painting which is very apt of course given the subject matter. Just like a painting, the more you look, the more you see. A book to keep and read again I think!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Matej Laš

    Citlivo prepojená spleť viacerých životných príbehov do kontrastu 16. storočia a Benátok zmietaných v pomorových časoch a 21. storočia často osamelej metropoly Londýna. Všetky príbehy viac či menej spájajú Tizianove obrazy, najmä Muž s modrým rukávom a Svätý Šebastián. Samotná postava Tiziana v knihe až tak veľmi nevystupuje a keď áno, tvorí skôr akúsi anti-stereotypnú karikatúru umelca. Omnoho zaujímavejšie je sledovať dopad jeho diel na interpretáciu jeho pozorovateľ s rozdielnymi generačnými Citlivo prepojená spleť viacerých životných príbehov do kontrastu 16. storočia a Benátok zmietaných v pomorových časoch a 21. storočia často osamelej metropoly Londýna. Všetky príbehy viac či menej spájajú Tizianove obrazy, najmä Muž s modrým rukávom a Svätý Šebastián. Samotná postava Tiziana v knihe až tak veľmi nevystupuje a keď áno, tvorí skôr akúsi anti-stereotypnú karikatúru umelca. Omnoho zaujímavejšie je sledovať dopad jeho diel na interpretáciu jeho pozorovateľ s rozdielnymi generačnými interpretansami. Jednoznačne najživšou postavou je Tullia Buffová, benátska "intelektuálna kurtizána". Jej pestrú postavu s prepracovanými charakterovými nuansami navyše dopĺňa vskutku intenzívne vybrúsenie atmosféry časoch po more, ktoré pripomínajú napr. povojnové časy - nové zajtrašky pošpinené pochmúrnym koncom začiatkov minulých. Aj ostatné postavy sa však môžu pýšiť autentickou trojdimenzionálnosťou a je skutočne radosť sledovať ich rozdielne a pritom veľmi podobné osudy. Autorka si očividne dala záležať na minucióznych historických detailoch, ktorými sa však nesnaží čitateľa zahltiť a unudiť, ale využíva ich na podporenie emočných stavov postáv a na demonštrovanie ich spojenia s mestami a miestami, v ktorých žijú. Nie je to ale kniha na jeden dlhší zimný večer, skôr je nutné je absorbovať pomalšie, po dúškoch, vtedy najlepšie vyznie jej bohatosť a podmanivá originalita.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Joy Rhoades

    A gripping foray into 16th Century Venice, interspliced with contemporary London and a Titian you can go see in the National Gallery. Glorious. Intrigue. Beauty.Creativity. Loved it.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Evy

    I really loved this book from the first page to the last. Its characters are all presented very well with their emotions, weaknesses, inner beauty or ugliness. The Venice of the 16th century very atmospheric and the modern London and New York very real. I passed through many emotions while reading it, I even cried at some point - not necessarily the intention of the writer! I definitely recommend it and it is sure to make you want to run to the National Gallery of London to see what will happen I really loved this book from the first page to the last. Its characters are all presented very well with their emotions, weaknesses, inner beauty or ugliness. The Venice of the 16th century very atmospheric and the modern London and New York very real. I passed through many emotions while reading it, I even cried at some point - not necessarily the intention of the writer! I definitely recommend it and it is sure to make you want to run to the National Gallery of London to see what will happen to you!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sophie

    Titian’s Boatman is very different than any book I’ve read before, which isn’t a bad thing. In fact it was a big part of the thing that drew me to Victoria Blake’s latest novel, as I often love diving into a novel I have no idea what to expect from. The other thing which drew me to Titian’s Boatman was how extremely intriguing it sounded from the blurb, and honestly this book did not disappoint me one bit. There are many layers to this complex story. The book begins with the boatman, Sebastiano, Titian’s Boatman is very different than any book I’ve read before, which isn’t a bad thing. In fact it was a big part of the thing that drew me to Victoria Blake’s latest novel, as I often love diving into a novel I have no idea what to expect from. The other thing which drew me to Titian’s Boatman was how extremely intriguing it sounded from the blurb, and honestly this book did not disappoint me one bit. There are many layers to this complex story. The book begins with the boatman, Sebastiano, who has brought into a city torn apart due to plague and crime a hooded man, who turns out to be someone he hates, Pomponio, the son of Titian. As if these three characters weren’t intriguing enough, there were many more parts and people to this story that I couldn’t wait to learn more about. One thing in particular I enjoyed about this book was the character development. The portrayal of each character was rich in colour and detail. Victoria Blake paints a picture as good with her words as Titian painted his masterpieces. I felt like I could really accurately see each character which was really absorbing and helped me connect really well with the book. The story in Titian’s Boatman travels many years, from its early days in the 1540s to 2011. There is also changes in the location from Venice to London and to New York, although Venice is the most prominent place in the book. Although the book changes characters quite often throughout, I didn’t find this in the least bit confusing. The author’s style of writing is beautifully vivid and engaging. I love the way she details moments and scenes in the book which were truly brought to life through the atmospheric tone to the writing and the use of my own imagination. When reading a book outside of my comfort zone, I can sometimes find them a bit tricky to get to grips with but when reading Titian’s Boatman, I was completely engrossed in the story and every time I put the book down, I was compelled to pick it up again and continue reading what was a highly entertaining novel. At the beginning of the book where we meet the main characters, the one thing that helped me keep up with the character changes was how they were all linked in some way to one person, Titian. Everything seemed to lead back to Titian and his art and he was really such a fascinating person. I had so many questions about him and was always dying to find out more about him. Early on there’s this painting, and later on there’s a second painting, another one of Titan’s masterpieces, and I don’t want to spoil any aspect of the story so I won’t, but I was hooked. I could picture the painting and the story that went with each one. The author’s storytelling possesses such a force that pulls the reader into the story she has created and leaves you eager for more. I absolutely loved reading this book and it’s a really memorable one which I’m sure will linger on my mind for a long time to come.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Cathy Beyers

    This is a lovely book, though it took me a while to see the real connection between all the story lines. They all unfold slowly, but the Venice backdrop and the artwork of Titian turn this into delightful reading. I especially liked the parts in which the courtesan tells the story of her unlikely background. The fact that rich families forced some of their daughters into a monastery, just so they could give a higher dowry to the most beautiful one, was known to me, but I was entirely unaware of This is a lovely book, though it took me a while to see the real connection between all the story lines. They all unfold slowly, but the Venice backdrop and the artwork of Titian turn this into delightful reading. I especially liked the parts in which the courtesan tells the story of her unlikely background. The fact that rich families forced some of their daughters into a monastery, just so they could give a higher dowry to the most beautiful one, was known to me, but I was entirely unaware of the children born in those monasteries. Imagine you can begin anywhere... is a good sentence to start this novel, because the reader can indeed begin with any part, and end as well since they are all intertwined. For lovers of art and history!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Susan Grossey

    I give this book my highest compliment: I couldn't put it down! (I have just this second finished it, and it's a work day and I should be working, so that tells you everything!) The subject is fascinating, the characters are beautifully drawn (and easy to differentiate as you read - often a problem, I find) and the language is a delight. As a writer myself, I can only admire the HUGE amount of historical research that has gone into the book, and the lightness with which the author wears her expe I give this book my highest compliment: I couldn't put it down! (I have just this second finished it, and it's a work day and I should be working, so that tells you everything!) The subject is fascinating, the characters are beautifully drawn (and easy to differentiate as you read - often a problem, I find) and the language is a delight. As a writer myself, I can only admire the HUGE amount of historical research that has gone into the book, and the lightness with which the author wears her expertise - you absorb the information painlessly and enjoyably. You really must read this book - it is a delight.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    What a fabulous surprise, coming upon Victoria Blake's novel The Return of the Courtesan. The writing is rich and velvety, and takes the reader deep into 16th century Venice, but in turn, swings us to London in the 21st century. As we read about the courtesan Trullia, the painter Titian, in their own voices as well as through the eyes of gondolier Sebastiano, we the reader are set right there in the boat with him, and in the seductive chambers of Trullia. The story weaves in and out, connecting What a fabulous surprise, coming upon Victoria Blake's novel The Return of the Courtesan. The writing is rich and velvety, and takes the reader deep into 16th century Venice, but in turn, swings us to London in the 21st century. As we read about the courtesan Trullia, the painter Titian, in their own voices as well as through the eyes of gondolier Sebastiano, we the reader are set right there in the boat with him, and in the seductive chambers of Trullia. The story weaves in and out, connecting the characters in past Venice to those in present London. The mystery is weaved so seamlessly and completely that the reader is hooked, chapter to chapter. I highly recommend this book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Haigh

    I loved this book, set in 16th century Venice, and present day New York and London, it fair races along with believable characters who all have their part to play.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    Fascinating and inventive story and well written.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Sweeney

    Review originally posted on The Bibliophile Chronicles *I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.* This is a stunningly written and enticing story about Venice in the 1500s. The writing is so vibrant and the one thing that really struck me all through the book is how alive the settings feel – particularly the noises and smells of Venice in that time period. I absolutely loved this book. It took me a while to read it – not because I wasn't enjoying it but because the wri Review originally posted on The Bibliophile Chronicles *I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.* This is a stunningly written and enticing story about Venice in the 1500s. The writing is so vibrant and the one thing that really struck me all through the book is how alive the settings feel – particularly the noises and smells of Venice in that time period. I absolutely loved this book. It took me a while to read it – not because I wasn't enjoying it but because the writing was so rich and beautiful I just wanted to take my time and savour every little bit. Titan’s Boatman has a really interesting premise. It centres around three different places – London and New York in 2011, and Venice in 1576. It’s a fascinating contrast between the two, and it’s hauntingly beautiful the way the paintings create little rippling effects hundreds of years after they were painted. The story is told in alternating points of view between the different locations, making for a beautifully complex, layer narration. This book was a pleasure to read, and really came alive the more I progressed through the story. The characters in Titan’s Boatman really come alive on the page. Their stories are different, but all contain human emotions – anger and fear, love and loneliness. I loved that there was such a wide variety of characters. It offered so many perspectives, and made for such a beautiful and compelling story. I also must point how that I loved the simple and elegant cover design, I think it fits so well with the book. If you’re looking for beautiful writing, a complex and multi-layer plot and an enticing story, Titan’s Boatman will be just the think you’re looking for!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Stephenson

    'Imagine you can begin anywhere'. From this first line, I was enchanted by this stunning book and knew I was going to love it. The story weaves between 16th Century Venice and modern day New York and London, the characters' stories linked by the fates of two of Titian's paintings. The Venice depicted here drips with atmosphere: plague-ridden but opulent, beautiful but corrupt. Its characters are as well-drawn and evocative as the city: the painter, the boatman, the courtesan, the nun. This is a 'Imagine you can begin anywhere'. From this first line, I was enchanted by this stunning book and knew I was going to love it. The story weaves between 16th Century Venice and modern day New York and London, the characters' stories linked by the fates of two of Titian's paintings. The Venice depicted here drips with atmosphere: plague-ridden but opulent, beautiful but corrupt. Its characters are as well-drawn and evocative as the city: the painter, the boatman, the courtesan, the nun. This is a magical world that I inhabited for a while through the author's words. And the modern day story is just as compelling, the links between past and present becoming clear as the story unfolds. Sometimes when a book is written from the viewpoint of a number of characters some are more interesting than others, so you're tempted to skip pages to get back to the more interesting ones, but that isn't the case here - I was invested in every character, desperate to find out more. Each story is interesting, each has something different to offer, but the book brings all of the stories together in a satisfying conclusion. I'm still haunted by this book, one of those that you wish you'd never read so that you could read it all over again.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Colleen Vanbuskirk munivez

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lucia Ville

  21. 5 out of 5

    Phyllis A

  22. 4 out of 5

    Fi Weir

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mlle Kurtz

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sue Sales

  25. 5 out of 5

    Girl From the North Country

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lottie Rollin

  27. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Lewis

  28. 4 out of 5

    albionlady

  29. 4 out of 5

    Merv Geen

  30. 5 out of 5

    Parsley

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